Scud fires, at last
By Leo Schlink
January 3, 2006
MARK Philippoussis last night won his first match on Australian soil in almost two years.The dual Davis Cup winner shared an encouraging 7-5 6-1 opening-round doubles victory at the Adelaide International with Belgian Xavier Malisse.
The pair downed Swede Robert Lindstedt and Finn Jarkko Nieminen, presenting Philippoussis with a vital confidence boost at the beginning of an Australian summer circuit pivotal to his flagging career.
Philippoussis, 29, had not tasted victory in Australia since eliminating Croatia's Mario Ancic from the second round of the Australian Open in January, 2004.
He missed most of the Australian circuit last year after injuring his groin at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
Appearing slimmer, fitter and more focused than at his previous outing - in St Petersburg in October - Philippoussis served strongly and produced deft touches around the net.
His only moment of discomfort came at 4-0 in the second set when he swallowed a fly during his ball toss. He quickly regained his composure to spear into the second round. Supported by his fiancee Alexis Barbara and his father Nick, Philippoussis had to wait for Malisse to polish off fellow Victorian Peter Luczak in singles before venturing out to Court No.7.
He was greeted by a huge crowd, which remained around his court even as Australia's surprise Wimbledon doubles champion Stephen Huss joined American drawcard James Blake on Centre Court for doubles.
Philippoussis's summer has been bankrolled by wildcards. He will use he first invitation today when he faces tough American Vince Spadea.
He is scheduled to return to Melbourne for the January 16 to 29 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Philippoussis starts back on long path to top
By Michael Gleeson
January 3, 2006
MARK Philippoussis took his first tentative steps towards resurrecting his famously unfulfilled career yesterday in a rare appearance in a doubles match at the Adelaide International.
In an encouraging sign that the former Wimbledon and US Open finalist seems to have a renewed commitment to fight his way back to something approximating his best, the former world No.8 moved freely with feisty Belgian Xavier Malisse to post a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Robert Lindstedt and Jarkko Nieminen.
After his tumble down the rankings the big-serving Victorian requires wildcard entries for this summer's events. He will travel from Adelaide to Auckland for the Heineken Open, in preference to the more common options of the Sydney International or the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne, before returning for the Australian Open.
While declarations of renewed commitment must be taken with some caution, the fact Philippoussis has returned to Memorial Drive in Adelaide - the scene of his inglorious Davis Cup performance against Sweden two years ago - and has opted to play doubles may indicate the measure of his resolve to reclaim a ranking befitting his prodigious ability. He played only two doubles tournaments last season, one of which was with compatriot Lleyton Hewitt at London's Queen's Club in June.
Through a combination of injury and lack of motivation, Philippoussis has played only four ATP and Challenger events in the past two seasons, resulting in his world ranking dipping to 205 before he lifted it to a still underwhelming 171 by the end of last year.
Philippoussis has not played a tournament since losing to Fernando Verdasco in the first round at St Petersburg in late October, but under another coach - this time a back-to-the-future case of re-hiring his childhood coach Archie Adams - he has reportedly been training hard in the US and has trimmed several kilograms from his large frame.
Earlier Lleyton Hewitt practised for about an hour with coach Roger Rasheed at Memorial Drive ahead of his return to tournament play today. The world No.4 last played competitively in the Thai Open in September, where he withdrew from the quarter-finals because of groin soreness. He missed the final tournament of the year - the Masters Cup in Shanghai - while expecting the birth of his daughter Mia.
Hewitt, who lost to Marat Safin in four sets in last year's Australian Open final after being hampered by a groin injury, will meet Czech Jan Hernych tonight while Philippoussis confronts American Vince Spadea, ranked 75, in the singles. In a bumper day Alberto Martin, American James Blake and exciting young Briton Andy Murray will also be on centre court.
Romance and glamour in the stands with Poo
IT'S not exactly a romantic sunset cruise in the Greek Islands but together time is still together time regardless of location.
Yesterday, that location just happened to be in the stands of the Next Generation Adelaide International at Memorial Drive where Aussie tennis spunk Mark Philippoussis watched the Malisse V Luczak match with his equally as gorgeous fiancee Alexis Barbara.
The Poo happily signed autographs for young fans before heading to prepare for his doubles match.
Alexis' appearance on the sidelines may have had something to do with the fact that nearly all the shops in Adelaide were closed yesterday - only a handful of Rundle St fashion stores were open.
Bec and Lleyton Hewitt better watch out, they've got some pretty stiff competition in the glamour stakes - Alexis, in particular, seems to have captured the eyes of men and women alike.
But stay tuned, Bec (and hopefully baby Mia) are likely to cheer their man on at his first round match tonight against Jan Hernych.
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